Will your relationship last or are you destined to split? You might be surprised at what couples who go the distance have in common...
See also: Can your relationship survive an affair?
See also: Divorce rates peak at certain times of year, say researchers
1. They think "we and not me"
John Gottman at the University of Washington has studied hundreds of couples in his "love lab," and claims that it takes him just five minutes to predict - with 91% accuracy - which couples will eventually divorce. It seems that how you talk about "the story of you" can reveal a LOT.
He says: "Happy couples tell their tales with warmth, affection, and respect for each other. Spontaneous compliments are common. Couples with a weak fondness and admiration system tend to recall unfavourable first impressions of their partner."
Happy couples also relate stories where they worked well as a team. "There's a sense that they are 'in this together'." In contrast, couples that are destined to split tend to focus on 'me' and not 'we'.
2. They pull together when times get tough
In his book, The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman lists the things that predict divorce.
When he interviews couples, he quizzes them about their relationship history. Couples that go the distance tend to talk about their early days fondly – they remember how excited they were when they first met and how much affection they had for one another.
Happy couples will also talk about hard times and describe how the experience brought them together. They describe how past troubles have strengthened their trust in one another and will take pride in having gone through tough times together.
3. They approach conflict the same way
You hate conflict and slink off to the shed at the first sign of trouble - but your partner loves a full-blown argument, and couldn't care less whether the neighbours are watching.
Dr. Gottman believes that how you express your emotions is a good indicator of whether your marriage will last. It doesn't matter so much that you find someone that you won't clash with (he argues that all relationships come with problems) – what's more important is that you share your partner's style of dealing with conflict.
People who have compatible meta-emotional styles (they agree on how feelings should be expressed) are better able to diffuse tensions and stop arguments from escalating.
4. They argue about little things
Are you and your partner forever bickering about little things? It doesn't necessarily mean that your relationship is headed for the rocks. In fact, Dr. Gottman believes that couples who argue about little things stay together longer than those who only argue about big issues.
If you've been together for three years or more and never argue, it could be a worrying sign. Why? You should be familiar and intimate with one another by then, and if you're not fighting it can indicate that one of you is withdrawn from the relationship. Everyone is different, of course, but never fighting can mean that you're not communicating.
5. They collaborate on problems
Speaking in an interview with Pyschotherapy.net, Dr. Gottman says: "Couples who are headed for divorce take the problem and put it on their partner: 'The problem is you, and your personality, your character; you're a screw-up.' That's an attack. So then their partner responds defensively and denies responsibility and says: 'You're the problem; I'm not the problem.'"
In contrast, couples who stay together treat the problem like a football they kick around with each other. "They say: 'We've got this problem. Let's take a look at it, let's kick it around. How do you see it? I see it this way, and we kick it around.'" They have empathy for each other's positions because they both acknowledge how they contribute to the problem.